Venezuela opposition leader calls for massive May Day protest

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called for huge May Day protests on Wednesday to pile pressure on President Nicolas Maduro as the United States said it was prepared to take military action to stem the crisis in the South American nation.

Pro- and anti-government rallies were due to take place, a day after violent clashes erupted in the capital following Guido’s call on the military to rise up against Maduro, who claimed the insurrection had failed.

Guaido said Wednesday’s opposition rally would be “the biggest in the history of Venezuela” as he presses his attempt to unseat the president.

“Across all of Venezuela, we will be in the streets,” said the National Assembly leader, recognised as interim president by more than 50 countries, as he repeated his call for the armed forces to join “Operation Freedom” to overthrow the socialist president.

Maduro remained defiant, claiming late Tuesday he had defeated an attempted coup.


Maduro, who is also due to lead a May Day rally in Caracas, congratulated the armed forces for having “defeated this small group that intended to spread violence through putschist skirmishes.”

“This will not go unpunished,” Maduro said in an address broadcast on television and radio.

“(Prosecutors) will launch criminal prosecutions for the serious crimes that have been committed against the constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned however that US President Donald Trump is adamant the possibility of a military intervention in the South American nation is not simple bluster.

“The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do,” Pompeo told Fox Business Network.

Tensions in Venezuela have been ratcheted up to a critical level this year, after Guaido announced on January 23 that he was the acting president under the constitution. He said Maduro had been fraudulently re-elected last year.

‘No turning back’ 

Guaido published a list on Twitter of gathering points for protesters on Wednesday, adding the message: “We continue with greater strength than ever Venezuela.”

He had rallied his supporters with a video message early on Tuesday that showed him — for the first time — with armed troops he said had heeded months of urging to join his campaign to oust Maduro.

He claimed the move was the “beginning of the end” of Maduro’s regime, and there was “no turning back.”

“We showed there are soldiers willing to defend the constitution, and there are many more,” Guaido said in the video message.

The 35-year-old opposition leader was filmed outside the La Carlota air base, where he asked the armed forces inside to join him.

Guaido was immediately backed by the US, where Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday that Washington was standing behind the Venezuelan people and their “freedom.”

Thousands of opposition supporters flocked onto a highway near the air base, many waving Venezuelan flags, but they were met with gunfire and tear-gas fired by soldiers at the compound’s perimeter.

Soldiers backing Guaido wore blue armbands to demonstrate their allegiance to the opposition leader but there appeared to be few of them.

Riots also erupted in several other cities across the country, with dozens injured and one death reported, according to human rights groups.

Brazil said at least 25 Venezuelan troops had sought asylum at its Caracas embassy.

Maduro had called on his forces to show “nerves of steel” and troops in riot gear, backed by armoured vehicles and water tankers, lined up against the demonstrators.

Hours after the revolt by military officers appeared to be fizzling out, Pompeo told CNN he believed Maduro was ready to flee to ally Cuba before he was dissuaded by Russia — a claim Maduro later refuted as “a joke.”

‘Another sunrise’ 

Speaking late on Tuesday to business executives in Washington, Pompeo voiced hope that Maduro would still choose exile in the coming days.

“I must say, there will be another sunrise tomorrow. The opportunity for Venezuelan democracy, I am confident, will remain,” Pompeo said.

Moscow, Maduro’s main backer and creditor alongside China, accused Guaido of “fuelling conflict” in the oil-rich country while the Syrian government condemned the “failed coup attempt”.

Maduro’s leftist Latin American allies Bolivia and Cuba also condemned Guaido.

As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed to all sides to avoid violence, Venezuela’s army chief and defence minister General Vladimir Padrino issued a stark warning of possible “bloodshed” — adding that he would hold the opposition responsible.

The US, meanwhile, called on the military to protect the people and support “legitimate institutions” including the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Trump threatened a “full and complete embargo” and tougher sanctions against Cuba if it does not end military support for Venezuela.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Alexander Martinez
Alexander Martinez
Alexander Martínez Pérez runs the AFP's Venezuela bureau

Related stories

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

Why would anyone vote for Trump?

COMMENT: For this gay, white soldier there simply isn’t a good enough challenger to knock him off his perch

UN Libya rights probe stalled due to cashflow problems

The UN is currently going through a serious liquidity crisis because many countries have not paid their annual dues, and it is therefore unable to fulfil all its mandates

Richard Calland: South Africa needs a Roosevelt style of leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to hold ‘fireside chats’ and have more power and institutional muscle around him, writes Richard Calland

Trump win will abort health care

Threats of funding cuts has caused a reduction in reproductive and sexual health services

The African Union’s (un)official statement on the US elections

The United States has never been shy to pass judgment on African elections. What does it look like when Africa passes judgment on America’s chaotic vote?
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday